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A World Seeking the Path of Lenten Renewal

Lenten_Renewal

Perhaps now more than at any point in recent history, the world finds itself veering uncomfortably close to danger and uncertainty. We have a global financial system that is unsustainable and violence and military conflicts brewing in some of the world’s most volatile powder kegs. There are now new emerging problems like disease outbreaks and social unrest brewing, which leads one to a very troubling concerning conclusion: the world is a mess.

This isn’t to say that we haven’t in recent years had our share of regional or global problems. However there’s a particular unease to the intensity of the current state of affairs. The West lining up against Russia, the Islamic State and al Shabaab committing atrocities in Africa and the Middle East, social unrest in Venezuela, Ebola in West Africa, the list goes on and on. It’s at times like these when Christians are called to bare witness to their faith, and what better time to bear witness during this particular time of year.

It’s at this time that we begin the season of Lent, a time of renewal, for fasting, penance and alms giving. It is an opportunity to try to reframe oneself amidst all the chaos we find ourselves enveloped in, not just in the world, but also in our own lives. Finding the time to peacefully reflect, to pray, to develop good habits and to journey closer to God, are things we should all strive for. Were this the prevailing attitude worldwide at this time of year, is it unreasonable to think that we might not have quite the degree of conflict and uncertainty that we do today?

Solving the world’s problems begins with each and every one of us, and our own conversion of heart. We cannot allow power, greed and pride to rule us. The Apostolic Vicar to Tripoli, Libya, Bishop Giovanni Martinelli illustrated this very plainly this week in an interview with Vatican Radio. He chastised powerful interests, specifically western countries for helping themselves to Libya’s resources following the military intervention, which led to the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi. He said that it was self-interests and economic interests that have created a terrible void in the country, which has led to much destruction and death.

With Libya verging on being a failed state, Bishop Martinelli’s words bare ever-stronger meaning, as we can see the consequences of selfish individual choices gone awry. However the bishop has chosen not to abandon his post, and will no doubt give a heroing Lenten witness, as militants are already surrounding Tripoli. There will no doubt be suffering, little food, a need to serve the poor coupled with a desperate need for prayer. We are not all called to live a Lenten season so intense and full of daily life and death struggle. However there is much we can learn, much the world can learn from the bishop’s example.

The world needs more Bishop Martinellis, those who are resolute in their faith and who prayerfully witness and serve in spite of what others might do or say. May this Lenten season be an opportunity for us all to be closer to Christ.

The Duty and Obligation of being Pro-Life

ProLife

What does it mean to be pro-life?

To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted. Remember the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI:

Every crime against life is an attack on peace, especially if it strikes at the moral conduct of people…But where human rights are truly professed and publicly recognized and defended, peace becomes the joyful and operative climate of life in society.

Abortion is without a doubt the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. We must never lose sight of the atrocities against the unborn, the untold and too-seldom spoken of pain and lingering anguish experienced by those who have been involved in abortions.

I know about the tragedy of abortion and I know about the good work of many people involved in the pro-life Movement who work hard to prevent this tragedy. However a singular focus on abortion as the arbiter of what it means to be “pro-life” has severely narrowed our national discourse about moral values in the public square. People claiming to be fervently Catholic, always right, and blinded by their own zeal and goodness, have ended up defeating the very cause for which we must all defend with every ounce of energy in our flesh and bones. Their anger vitiates their efforts.

Could it be that some of us are turned off or even repelled by current definitions or behaviors of some of those people claiming to be pro-life, yet manifesting a tunnel vision? The Roman Catholic Church offers a consistent teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be pro-life. Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. We must strive to see the whole picture, not with tunnel vision.

What is also troubling are those who claim to be on the “left”, always championing human and civil rights, respecting and upholding the dignity and freedom of others. This of course has included the protection of individual rights, and the efforts of government to care for the weak, sick and disadvantaged. Why then are the extension to the unborn of the human right to life, and opposition to the culture of death, not central issues on the “left?” They must be, for they are clearly matters of justice and human rights.

A few years ago, Cardinal Séan O’Malley wrote to the people of Boston with these words:

If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us… Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

We cannot ignore the other great challenge faced by humanity today–the serious question of mercy killing, or euthanasia as it is sometimes called, no longer found in abstract cases and theories. It concerns ordinary people and is debated not only in Parliament but also around dinner tables and in classrooms. Aging populations, especially in the west, and resulting smaller workforces are now creating a market push towards euthanasia. As Pope John Paul II wrote: “a right to die will inevitably give way to the duty to die.” This issue strikes to the very core of who we are and what we believe. Even when not motivated by the refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false and misguided mercy. True compassion leads to sharing another’s pain, not killing the person whose suffering we cannot bear.

FrancisBaby

Furthering the Common Good

Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons… all of these things and more poison human society.

It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted.

In Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, (Truth in Charity), the Holy Father addresses clearly the dignity and respect for human life:

Openness to life is at the centre of true development… When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.

Engaging the Culture Around Us

Being pro-life does not give us the right and license to say and do whatever we wish, to malign, condemn and destroy other human beings who do not share our views. We must never forget the principles of civility, Gospel charity, ethics, and justice. Jesus came to engage the culture of his day, and we must engage the culture of our day. We must avoid the sight impairment and myopia that often afflict people of good will who are blinded by their own zeal and are unable to see the whole picture. Being pro-life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre! If we are pro-life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us. Being pro-life in this day and age is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world.

We are all invited pray these words each day, especially during this week:

LupitaEternal Father, Source of Life, strengthen us with your Holy Spirit to receive the abundance of life you have promised.
Open our hearts to see and desire the beauty of your plan for life and love.
Make our love generous and self-giving so that we may be blessed with joy.
Grant us great trust in your mercy.
Forgive us for not receiving your gift of life and heal us from the effects of the culture of death.
Instill in us and all people reverence for every human life.
Inspire and protect our efforts on behalf of those most vulnerable especially the unborn, the sick and the elderly.
We ask this in the Name of Jesus, who by His Cross makes all things new. Amen.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation

(CNS photo/Bob Roller)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The “O” Antiphons: O Emmanuel…

o_emmanuel

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 23, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23 and 1 Timothy 4:9.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectratio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domines, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come, save us, O Lord our God.

From Evening prayer
O Emmanuel,
king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people:
Come
and set us free, Lord our God.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 1:
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Emmanuel
Emmanuel means “God-with-us.” In the Old Testament, God dwelt with his people in the temple at Jerusalem. At the temple sanctuary He received their worship and conferred His mercy and blessings.

Christ is “God-with-us” in a far more intimate way. He is one of us since his birth on te first Christmas. He dwells with us in His Mystical Body, the Church. He embraces us in the holy Eucharist. We pray Him to come with His all-powerful grace this Christmas to save us, our neighbours and everyone.

-
(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O King…

O_King

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 22, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 2:4; 11:10, Psalm 47:8; Jeremiah 10:7, Daniel 7:14; Haggai 2:8, Romans 15:12 and Ephesians 2:14, 20.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of all peoples and their hope, cornerstone uniting Jews and Gentiles in one people: Come, and save man whom You formed from the dust of the earth.

From Evening prayer
O King of all the nations
the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man:
Come
and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 7:
O Come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven’s peace.

King of All Peoples
By His word, God made the first man, from whom all men and women have been born – people now divided into many peoples and nations struggling against one another.

In Christ, the Word incarnate, God gathers all who are of good will again into one, in the unity of His Mystical Body; and thereby He fulfills the desire of mankind through the ages for true union and peace. We beg Him to come and save our warring world, to re-establish all things in His love.

-
(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Dawn…

o_dawn

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 21, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 9:1; 58:8; 60:18-20, Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78-79, John 8:12 and Revelation 22:16

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Dawn in the East, splendor of the everlasting Light and Sun of Justice: Come and give light to those sitting in darkness, in the shadow of death.

From Evening prayer
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come,
shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

From O Come, O Come Emmanuel:
Verse 6:
O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.

Dawn in the East
We pray our Lord to give us light of His revelation and life to all mankind, to lead everyone on earth out of spiritual darkness into the glory of a life unending.

-
(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Key of David…

o_key_of_david

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 20, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 22:22, Jeremiah 13:13; 51:19, Matthew 4:16; 16:19 and Luke 1:79

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel! You open and no one closes, You close and no one opens: Come and lead out of prison the captive who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.

From Evening prayer
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come,
break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 5:
O Come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

Key of David
Jesus, our Lord possesses the royal power of His ancestor David in a far fuller and higher way. What he commands is done. By His death on the Cross, He broke open the gates of death and led the souls of the just into everlasting life. He broke the power of the devil who had helped all people captive in sin and the fear of death. We pray Him to come and free us from slavery to sin and to the fear that sin brings with it.

-
(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Stock of Jesse…

o_stock_of_jesus

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 19, the antiphon is based on Isaiah 11:1, 10, Isaiah 52:15 and Romans 15:12.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O stock of Jesse, set up as the rallying sign for the nations! In Your presence rulers are silent and the peoples make supplication: Come deliver us; do not delay.

From Evening prayer
O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come,
let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 4:
O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem,
from ev’ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

Stock of Jesse
In His human nature, Christ is the descendant of Jesse, Father of David, the great king of God’s people.

Our Lord is the King of kings. His power extends to all peoples and to their rulers. In the desperate perils of our age, we pray Him to come quickly and deliver us, to establish in all hearts His kingdom of truth and of life, of justice, love and peace.

-
(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Adonai…

o_adonai

From December 17-23, I’d like to share with you these antiphons, that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 18, the antiphon is based on Exodus 3:2, Isaiah 33:22; 63:11-12, Micah 6:4 and Acts 7:30-31.

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai and Leader of the House of Israel! You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave the Law on Mount Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

From Evening prayer
O Adonai,
Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come,
stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 3:
O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times didst give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Adonai

Adonai means Lord (thus the translation, “Sacred Lord of Ancient Israel). It was one of the titles used when speaking of or to God in the Old Testament. It was Adonai who led the Chosen People out of captivity in Egypt “by the mighty arm of his power” and gave them His law on Mount Sinai.

Similarly Christ, the Lord led us out of our captivity to Satan by dying “with outstretched arms” on the Cross of Calvary; and He has given us His law of love. We beg Him to come at Christmas and redeem us completely from slavery to sin; and to vie us the power to live more fully in obedience to His law.

(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

The “O” Antiphons: O Wisdom

 

o_wisdom

I vaguely remember my mother telling us, during the Season of Advent, while growing up, about the “O” antiphons. I never really understood what these were. Even as an adult, she would occasionally send me various reflections on the “O” antiphons. I must say, with regret that while I thought it to be an important part of our Advent Tradition, I didn’t really see them as part of my tradition.

Until I began praying the Office of the Church.

As a Deacon, I have made a promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours: Morning prayer (laudes) and Evening prayer (vespers). This prayer of the Church allows us to pray with (and through) the Psalms. They have been part of the prayers of the Church since very early in our history. As we pray the psalms, each one is introduced by an antiphon (not unlike the refrain we pray at Mass during the Responsorial Psalm). Added to the Psalms, which are different every day, there are two canticles from the Gospel of Luke that are prayed every day: The Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79) in the morning for laudes; and the Canticle of Mary (the Magnificat: Luke 1: 46-55) in the evening for vespers.

On the last seven days before the Vigil of Christmas, December 17-23, our Church sings antiphons that are slightly different than the rest of the year. For evening prayer, before the Magnificat, each of these antiphons begins with the word, “Oh” (or in Latin “O”), thus the short-handed name, the “O” antiphons.

Each of these seven prayers-songs consists of
a) an invocation addressed to Christ, using one of his prophetic titles (O Wisdom; O Key of David etc.);
b) a development of that title reflecting passages in the Old and New Testaments;
c) an ardent request expressed by the word “Come”;
d) the reason why we want Christ to come.

Not only are these antiphons prayed during vespers, but they have also been placed in the daily Liturgy as the verse of the Gospel Acclamation. With the new translation of the Roman Missal, these are sometimes summarized or even repeated, but, in their essence, they are the same. If you go to daily Mass between December 17 – 23, you’ll hear them.

I recently discovered that, not only are these found in the Liturgy of the Hours and in the daily Mass, but they are actually, also the verses to a song that all of us know very well, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

All of us can make use of these anthems in our family and personal prayers for they sum up everything that we want our Lord to be toward us and our world, to do for us and our world in His Christmas coming.
For the next seven days, I’d like to share with you these antiphons that you will pray with them and they will help you continue to prepare for the Advent of our Lord. May they become part of your Advent tradition as they are becoming part of mine.

For December 17, the antiphon is based on Wisdom 8:1; Isaiah 11:2-3; 28:29, Proverbs 8:1-36 and John 1:1-5.

O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ.

O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner: come to teach us the way of truth. (Isaiah 11:2-3; Isaiah 28:29)

From Evening prayer
O Wisdom,
O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care:
Come
and show your people the way to salvation.

From O Come, O Come Emmannuel:
Verse 2:
O Come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

Wisdom
In the ancient civilizations of the Near East, “wisdom” was first understood as the science and art of managing men. It meant the principles involved in “getting along” successfully oneself and in making the whole state function smoothly. In Israel, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the search for human wisdom became more and more oriented toward the supreme Wisdom of God by which He creates and governs all things, His hidden design for mankind and its mysterious ordering of everything to achieve His plan.

Christ our Lord is this eternal Wisdom incarnate. He clarified and carried out God’s plan to re-establish everything in Himself as head. May He come more fully to each of is and to the whole world this Christmas, to show us how we may take our part in carrying out that plan for our own happiness and for the happiness of all people.


(Reflection taken from Bible and Liturgy, a Sunday parish bulletin published by the Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn. Edited by Rev. William Heidt, OSB. Published with the approval of Bishop Peter W. Bartholome of St. Cloud. Printed in 1959 by the North Central Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota (c) 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.)

Deacon-structing Vocations: Discernment

TheThinker

Last week we looked at what Vocation is and what it means to “be called.” Everyone is called to one of four vocations and so at some point in our life, if we want to respond to God’s call, we have to think about where God wants to take us.

Figuring this out may not be easy, but it’s doable. It takes time, prayer, trust, patience and love. Catholics call this “figuring out,” discernment.

Discernment has to do with decision-making. It has to do with distinguishing between several options. We could say that discernment has to do with detecting or perceiving the distinctions between things. It has to do with defining or discriminating between things.

Catholics use the word discernment to describe the process of making important decisions with God. There are many definitions of discernment, but this is my favourite: “A process of prayerful reflection which leads to the understanding of God’s call. It involves listening to God in all the ways that God communicates with us: in prayer, in the Scriptures, through the Church and the world, in personal experience, and in other people.”

God speaks to us in different ways. As the definition above describes, God speaks to us in prayer, through Scriptures, through the Church and the world, through our personal experiences and through those around us. I think that God has a preferred way to communicate with each one of us. In my case, God very clearly communicates to me through other people, through Scriptures and through my past experiences.

God gives us our talents and our desires. God also gives us opportunities. If you have a talent for something, say music, and you also have a desire for that one thing; you desire to play music; you love playing music – and then you God gives you opportunities to play music, then it’s likely that this is an area where God wants you.

At the same time, I don’t know if it matters to God whether we play a guitar or a violin, or whether you are a music conductor or a music teacher. He simply has given you certain gifts and desires, and has given you certain opportunities. What we do with that is up to us.

When you are discerning something, you have to begin by looking at your talents, your desires and the opportunities you’ve had in your life. If I look at my talents and gifts; if I look at what I love to do and what I’m good at doing, those are all indications of what God wants for my life.

Another way to see what God wants for you is to see what opportunities you have. Let’s say that you want to attend a particular university but you win a scholarship to another one – or you have a chance to travel to a different country – maybe God is trying to tell you something. What really works for me is seeing how God has been working in my life: Where have I been? What opportunities and experiences have I had? How has my prayer life been? How do I best hear God communicating with me? These are also good indicators of where God is taking me.

Discernment also involves listening to what others are saying to you. Listening to my family and friends is very important to me. We don’t make decisions on our own and the people who know us, love us and want the best for us can be of great help in finding out what’s good for us. If you have many people telling you that you’d make a great deacon, that should count for something.

Most importantly, you need to be prayerful. (This is why a good spiritual director always asks, “How’s your prayer life?”) After all, discerning is about listening to God’s will. In discerning, we need to speak with God, but most importantly we need to listen to God in prayer.

One way we listen to God is by reading or listening to his Word. Read the Bible. Study the Bible. Learn what God’s plan for humanity and the world is. There’s a good chance that his plan for you has something to do with that.

We also learn about God’s will by learning what the Church teaches. We are not alone in our journey towards Heaven. There is a wealth of information, history, tradition and wisdom that belongs to the Catholic Church. We need to be part of that.

So next time you have to make a big decision, ask your friends and family what they think, pray about it, read the Bible, see what the Church teaches about that particular issue, and see how you feel about it. And take your time. One of Pope Francis’ favourite saints is Peter Faber who said that “time is God’s messenger.” If you follow these guidelines and take your time, you’ll be sure to make the best decision possible.

Discerning our vocation involves the same process. But our vocation is much more important than figuring out whether we’re going to learn a musical instrument or grow up to be a music teacher or conductor. As we said last week, your vocation is not a career or job. It is the best way that each one of us, individually, can respond to God’s call to holiness. There are four ways in which we can respond to the call to holiness. These four are what the Church calls Vocations:

  • Vocation to the single life
  • Vocation to the religious life
  • Vocation to the ordained life
  • Vocation to the married life

Next week we’ll take a look at the Single Life.